About Me

Brief Bio

Katie Panciera serves as an Assistant Professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communications Department. Her primary teaching and advising are in the User Experience Program where she teaches a wide range of classes from Inclusive Design to User Research to Data Visualization. She is passionate about undergraduate education and left a career as a Senior User Experience Researcher at Google to teach at MSOE. Her Ph.D. in Computer Science was awarded in 2014 by the University of Minnesota where she was an active member of the GroupLens lab, focusing on Human Computer Interaction with Dr. Loren Terveen. Prior to that, Katie received a B.A. in Mathematics and an independent major BA in Computer Science. Her primary advisor and mentor was Dr. Jan Pearce.

In her free time Katie enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, travel (not during pandemics), and spending time with her family. Her husband and daughter are enjoying living in Milwaukee after an adjustment moving from California! They are proud residents of the city of Milwaukee proper.

Katie is a white woman with short brown hair. She has a part on the right and her bangs swept to the left. She is in front of a dark gray wall with an air vent above her head. The reflection of the sunset is visible behind her right ear. She has a dark gray mask around her neck, a soft smile, and is wearing a v cut red shirt.

Much Longer Bio

I have a somewhat long and winding path to end up teaching User Experience at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Early Years

Katie is shown as a wide eyed, curly blonde haired, white toddler, around the age of 3. She is biting her lip and holding a knitting pattern. More colorful patterns are scattered in front of her on the floor and a shelf of toys is in the background.

I was born into a rather academic minded family. My dad was doing a postdoc and my mom, who stayed at home with me, was very active teaching English and was from a family that loved learning. Because of my dad's academic career, we moved around a lot, resulting in me living in 4 states between birth and college.

Despite the moves, we always had books around. Ones we bought and, perhaps more importantly, ones from the library. Ever since I can remember I've been going to the library and hauling giant tote bags of books back home. (See the picture to the right where, at age 3, I am searching through my mother's knitting patterns.) My parents raised me to be curious, supported by other friends and relatives. This proved to be critical as curiousity is a key element to user experience research.


I started school in Alaska and was so privileged to have some really excellent teachers. I loved school even though it exhausted me (I'm a very good extroverted introvert). In seventh grade I had a team of teachers who were truely amazing people. They were also the school's Science Olympiad coaches and I became an active member of our team. We won state both years and my eighth grade year got to go to nationals where we placed 37th. One of my events was the trial "Surfing the Net" event, which, prior to good search engines was more difficult than it would be today. (I got 27th place.)

In eighth grade I also competed in the State Science Fair, working on a germination project with my dad. I won a prize from the Society for Technical Communication for my work.

Katie, a white girl with brown hair, bangs, and curls escaping from a ponytail, smiles largely showing off braces, in the foreground. Behind her is a science fair poster. The title at the top is Increasing Germination of Birdvetch (Vicia cracca L.) Seeds K.A. Panciera. The rest of the poster is mainly illegible black text printed on white paper and mounted on black backgroun. On the right above her head is a picture of bird vetch. To her left are several line graphs.


Katie, a white female with brown hair up in a messy clip, is shown in profile looking towards the left side of the picture wearing a blue fleece and jeans. She is laughing with her head tilted up and a blue spoon in her mouth. In her left hand is a pot. She is in a kitchen and there is a large window behind her. There is a view of trees from the window. On the windowsill is a 2003 Dell laptop playing music. The powercord goes across the frame to an unshown outlet.

I went to college at Berea College, where my dad was a faculty member and majored in mathematics. I loved my liberal arts education since as part of my curiousity I got to study a wide variety of subjects from the history of hymns to a study of Biblical Women to water aerobics. I added a computer science independent major my Senior year fall and became one of the first three Computer Science Majors at Berea College. During my sophomore summer I was able to conduct robotics research with Dr. Jan Pearce (my advisor), Dr. James Blackburn-Lynch (another Math/CS professor), and two other students. This started my interest in thinking seriously about robotics.

Multiple times during my college experience I got a chance to study abroad. My first trip was a choir tour after my freshman year. We went to Italy and Switzerland singing in a number of gorgeous cathedrals including Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. During my sophomore year January term, I took a class about the role of women in the Zapatista movement in southern Mexico, traveling with the class for three weeks to Oaxaca and Chiapas and visiting cities, villages, and local tribes. My junior year I studied abroad at the University of York taking courses in Math and Computer Science. For fun I joined a student-led choir.

For fun in college, I was mostly involved in music. I sang in the college choir and played trombone in band and jazz band. I was also secretary/treasurer of choir during my sophomore year and the president of the Berea College Chapter of American Choral Director's Association.

College is where I first started building my commitment of service as well. For my first two years I was the Assistant to the Chair of the Music Department, in charge of a $10,000 fund for concerts. But from sophomore through senior years I also was a teaching assistant for Math and Computer Science classes. I was an active member of Math Club, pushed for attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (with a faculty member and a fellow student), and was part of the Computer Science Faculty Recruiting committee during my senior year.

Grad School

I applied to three schools in three different disciplines. George Washington University for a Masters in Science and Technology Public Policy, University of British Columbia for a Masters in Computer Science focused on Assistive Technology and Computer Science Education, and University of Minnesota for a Ph.D. in Computer Science focused on robotics.

It may aready be fairly clear that I did not end up doing what I expected. I went to the University of Minnesota but realized within my first year that I was much more interested in Human Computer Interaction than robotics. I joined the GroupLens lab, my home at UMN.

My education through GroupLens helped me learn to work with others (especially those who think quite differently than me) but also taught me how to write, how to teach, and how to be in community with other academics. Even though in retrospect CS might not have been the right program for me, I am so happy and lucky that I found Dr. Loren Terveen (my advisor) and GroupLens, because without them I wouldn't have completed my degree.

During the majority of grad school I was either a TA or supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Felllowship. I'm happy to talk about both of these with students and assist students with applications for the GRFP.

During one summer of grad school I applied (and got) an internship at Google as a User Experience Researcher, a job that opened my eyes to some of the possibilities of working in industry.

Katie, a white woman with short brown hair, is looking to the right of the photographer. She is wearing a necklace, dark blue shirt, and brown dress pants. In her hands, covering her chest are two pieces of paper. Both have three or four signatures on them. Katie has a goofy smile on her face. There is a corkboard with scientific posters on it in the background and she is standing in a university hallway next to a fire extinguisher box.


Two women are in the foreground of this black and white picture, Katie, a tall white woman with short dark hair, and Keita, a shorter Black woman with curly shoulder length hair and a fabulously patterned dress. Both women are laughing. Katie is on the left and holds a small camcorder. Keita is on the right and holds a small microphone.

As I finished up my Ph.D., I realized I didn't want to teach immediately, despite that always being my goal. I began to apply for full-time jobs. Google wasn't hiring qualitative researchers and I ended up getting a job at Facebook.

I should point out here that i made a SERIOUS mistake here. People, notably Dr. Amy Bruckman, had warned me to not do this. I ignored them because I was done with all the research in my dissertation and just needed to do some edits. Instead of that process taking me months it took me over a year. I cannot reccommend this path to anyone.

I worked for Facebook for a year as a mixed-methods researcher. I completed engineering bootcamp and then worked as a researcher on News Feed. The majority of my work was survey writing, launching, monitoring, and analysis. After a year at Facebook I was struggling mentally with the expectation of being available 24/7 and trying to get my dissertation done. I left Facebook and focused completely on my dissertation, which I defended in August 2014.

I started a position at Google as a Qualitative UX Researcher in July 2014, after I had turned in my dissertation to my committee. I worked on the Payments team for 3 years and the G Suite IT Admin team for 2 years before leaving industry for MSOE. I traveled extensively in my positions at Google conducting research in six countries outside of the US.


In 2019, I left my Google job to move with my family to Milwaukee. My husband Ben works remotely as a Full Stack Engineer. We enjoy living in Bay View and our daughter Lily is a Milwaukee Public Schools student.

In my spare time I cook, bake, read, and knit. I attempt to garden but prefer the eating of the veggies to the growing of the veggies.

This image is a color collage made up of three pictures. On the right is a picture with a tissure box and a three sectioned organizer with snacks. On the top left is a picture of a bookshelf with a sign reading DH 435 Library up arrow. There are a number of books shown including When Stars are Scattered, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Firekeeper's Daughter, Lakewood, The Waiting, True Biz, Sick Kids in Love, Why Can a Body Do?, and Care Work. On the bottom is the glass door to my office with a rainbow banner hanging on the inside.